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GOLDSMITH AND OTHERS.
spoken or acted on the same occasion : even where the agency is supernatural, the dialogue is level with life. Other writers disguise the most natural passions and most frequent incidents, so that he who contemplates them in the book will not know them in the world : Shakespeare approximates the remote, and familiarises the wonderful; the event which he represents will not happen, but if it were possible its effects would probably be such as he has assigned; and it may be said that he has not only shown human nature as it acts in real exigencies, but as it would be found in trials to which it cannot be exposed.
“This, therefore, is the praise of Shakespeare, that his drama is the mirror of life; that he who has mazed his imagination in following the phantoms which other writers raise up before him may here be cured of his delirious ecstasies, by reading human sentiments in human language ; by scenes from which a hermit may estimate the transactions of the world, and a confessor predict the progress of the passions.
“The sand heaped by one flood is scattered by another, but the rock always continues in its place. The stream of time which is continually washing the dissoluble fabrics of other poets passes without injury by the adamant of Shakespeare."
Other essayists—especially one, Oliver Goldsmith, whose “Citizen of the World” is a most delightful book-may be read; and perhaps the “ World” and the “Connoisseur” may be dipped into, and the “Man of Feeling," by Henry Mackenzie, perused; and then the essayists of more modern times—Hazlitt's “Round Table, Leigh Hunt's “Indicator,” Charles Lamb's " Essays of Elia,” the most charming and delightful of
literary essays, and perhaps the very first characteristic writing that we have. Then, with a glance at "Friends in Council,” “Guesses at Truth,” and some of the essays of the popular writers of the day, our selfimprover will have safely landed in modern times, and will be able to understand why the novelist, first the historical and then the humorous dealer in pure fiction, threw the essayist into the shade, and absorbed that popularity which is necessary for the existence of a writer.'
Having regard to a fair exemplification of the various types of essay, and to the limits of space at my disposal, I have confined my extracts from the essayists to Bacon, Overbury, Addison and Steele, and Johnson. The specimens from these five worthies will generally, it is hoped, be found sufficiently characteristic of this pleasing and instructive species of literary composition.
T is a much more difficult thing to tell
people what to read than to tell them what has been written; and in reading these papers,
which have been composed to the end that, in a greater or less degree, both these objects may be attained, it will be well if the reader remember the principal difficulty which besets the present writer in his task.
Dramatic literature is so large and essential a part of the literature of all civilized countries, that the history of religion, politics, social advancement, and, much more, the manners of a people, cannot be known without reading many of the plays which have been produced by it. England's dramatic writings are the finest that she can boast of, rich as she is in each variety of genius. The spirit of narrative literature, too, it must be added, is in itself essentially dramatic; that is, the author of a good novel, or of a tale for children, must have dramatic power before he can so enliven his narrative as to create an interest in the minds of his readers. Again, the historian is more or less of a dramatist; and just as he is gifted with that power, he fails or he succeeds. The biographer again is in the same strait. If his dramatic instinct be large enough to endow the character he descants on or describes, with vivacity of expression, reality of being, and what is shortly termed life, he succeeds; if not, he fails. And this dramatic instinct is so strong, that from Plato, in his “Apology of Socrates," his “Banquet,” and in “Theatetus,” to the latest and finest specimen of biography, we find the writer taking refuge in dramatic dialogue, which gives—as in Boswell's “Life of Johnson"-a vivid and ever-living interest to the pictures that he draws.
Nevertheless, and notwithstanding this necessity for the drama, we find in English society, or in many parts of it, a general distaste for, and a suspicion of, dramatic writings, because many plays abound in questionable situations, and in dialogue that is, to say the least, often illustrated with impure images. These stains are in part, no doubt, owing to the actors themselves, and to the license of the stage. It would be absurd to deny them, but at the same time it is more absurd to be frightened at them. We are not frightened at the Bible because it continually speaks in the plainest terms of the sins of men and women. Perfect igno rance of evil is just as impossible as it would be useless. Ignorance is never innocence, and, bearing this in mind, we may safely trust to the shield of innate purity, and the elevation of the mind which fine literature gives, and proceed with the study of the Drama.
It is not our purpose here to study deeply the origin
PURPOSE OF THE DRAMA.
of plays. They have had their origin in all countriesin China, Persia, and in Greece. They seem to have sprung up in pastoral communities, and to have been the natural way of amusement resorted to by shepherds after their games.
From the actors' faces being smeared with lees of wine, or with the blood of goats killed at the feast, we have the words “tragedy” and
tragic”; and in some disguise, some rude dress, some cothurnus to heighten the figure, or low sock to enable the actor to skip about nimbly, we have the origin of the tragic mask, the fixed stare, the "sock" of the comedian, and the "buskin" of the tragic actor. Both in Greece and in England, the people of which countries resembled each other in many points, plays were originally one of the agents of the priests or clergy in educating their people, and it seems to be a very sad thing that even now the Drama is not made what it can so well be—an educational agent; for—
What pulpits reach not, and would fail to reach,
The earliest species of drama known in England was that which was designated by the term "Miracle Plays or Mysteries,” in which the life of our Saviour, the Creation of the world, the intimate relation of the soul of Man to his Maker, and the continual struggle between goodness and wickedness were taught. We first hear of them in the midland counties. At Dunstable, in 1119, a play on the story of St. Catherine was acted; from 1268 to 1577 similar productions were presented at Chester. During that time, and still later, others were played at Coventry, a city which still boasts of a public dramatic procession, that of Godiva ; and at length